Abstract: A GIS Approach to Understanding Social Networks Among Older Chinese Immigrants in New York City (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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137P A GIS Approach to Understanding Social Networks Among Older Chinese Immigrants in New York City

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Yuanyuan Hu, MSW, LCSW, Doctoral Student, New York University, New York, NY
Qingwen Xu, PhD, Professor, New York University, New York, NY
Background and Purpose: Older Chinese immigrants are the fastest-growing senior population in New York City and often face changes in cultural value and social networks. Previous studies indicated Older Chinese immigrants are heavily family-oriented and turn to community organizations when the informal network is not available (Dong & Chang, 2017). This study explores the nature and quality of older Chinese immigrants’ social networks and to what extent community-based aging services in their community have contributed to the formation of their formal and informal social ties.

Methods: The study introduces GIS as a spatial approach toward understanding the dynamics between social networks, Chinese neighborhoods, and community aging services. GIS data are obtained from the US Census Bureau (population counts, age, race/ethnicity, and household income), and the New York City Department for the Aging (Senior Centers, NORC sites, and social clubs with addresses). Using ArcGIS, the study creates individual and overlay maps to understand the geographic variations of older adults in Manhattan, Queens, and the Brooklyn (at the Census tract level, overall and by Asian and income status), and their proximity to community aging services. This study also includes data from interviewing 21 older Chinese immigrants recruited from Chinatowns in Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn. Qualitative interview data includes participants’ assessment of their neighborhoods, their mobilization and utilization of social networks to cope with needs in care and services, and their perception of culture change in elderly care. Thematic analysis is adopted to analyze transcripts; codes are generated, and themes emerge. Further, interview data is integrated with the geographic information; ArcGIS StoryMaps is used to present maps in the context of narrative text to better present and understand the association between older Chinese immigrants’ networks and the distribution of aging services in the community.

Results: The finding shows that older Chinese immigrants in New York City have a social network bounded by language and geographic location. Their networks, unlike previous knowledge from existing literature, are heavily tied to the formal elderly care institutional structure; most of the participants verbalized preferences to maintain independent living and turn to community organizations for case management, entertainment, nutritional support, and emotional support. The density and quality of culturally appropriate services are related to their utilization of community-based aging services. Service accessibility both geographically and linguistically is high, particularly in Chinatowns in Manhattan and Queens (using Census tracts), where the median household income is slightly higher. Kin-based and informal social ties are still essential but by and large perceived as a safety net, culture-driven, and secondary source for care and services.

Conclusions & Implications: New York City has one of the largest aging service system in the country, where older Chinese immigrants frequently attend to receive support and make social connections. This study highlights the dynamic nature of elderly care behavior, changes in the social network, and community environment for older Chinese immigrants. For social work practitioners, developing effective strategies in the community that can mobilize network supports remains a critical undertaking in care service delivery.